While looking into an assisted query engine for SC, I posed a simple question which gave unexpected results. To preface, let’s assume the use case of a request for the definition of a phrase in the Dhamma. Indeed, let us ask SuttaCentral, about the “root of suffering”.
SuttaCentral today returns 7533 results for root of suffering. This is ironic because it illustrates the suffering incurred by the voice assisted user who might respond with some sarcasm, “Yes do indeed read them all now”.
mn/en/mn105.po:"Understanding that attachment is the root of suffering, they are freed with "
mn/en/mn001.po:msgstr “Because he has understood that relishing is the root of suffering,”
sn/en/sn42/sn42.11.po:msgstr “For desire is the root of suffering.”
Oh my! Thank you so much for this opportunity to practice my compassion skills. Although in many respects it would be a blessing to have to job of just reading 7533 suttas, I did nevertheless feel for poor old Voice and wondered how I might lighten it’s load.
A quotation wrapped search phrase (“root of suffering”) was my best answer; just a humble 13 results. Of course then, typically, knowing that translations of things vary, I’d want to try to isolate the Pali phrase (which, incidentally, is why I still continue to plead with the devas to look favourably on the sticky settings feature request), but as it’s such a short list here, maybe it’s okay to leave it at that.
discovering grep was one of the greatest highlights of my year last year … alas, I’ve completely forgotten how to use it now… still, off I float away to fond dreamy memories
One thing you will notice is that although 13 results is fine for the sighted it still results in suffering for the visually impaired. We take for granted our ability to scan a full page quickly. This gift is not given to the visually impaired. Simply consider the time and effort required to read and understand all 13 results returned by “is the root of suffering”". We must filter the results brutally and slash away all excess.
If we filter the results we would have the following phrases distilled from the SC translation repository:
"Understanding that attachment is the root of suffering "
“Because he has understood that relishing is the root of suffering,”
“For desire is the root of suffering.”
This phrase-based search to find a sutta seems to work even for esoteric queries, such as “what is the reed?”, for which we would have the following as navigational gateway to (dn10, dn2, mn77):
This is the reed, this is the sheath. The reed and the sheath are different
Please share a few of your favorite “what is X?” queries and I’ll run them through the proposed algorithm for discussion.